Prior to Cruise: My husband, sister and I (all in our early 50's) flew into New Orleans a day early & checked into Harrah's Hotel & Casino. My husband gambles in their casinos in Atl. City so we had previously arranged for a comped room. Harrah's came thru big time with a suite, which was beautiful. Thanks Harrah's! We spent our first afternoon walking around the French Quarter, checking out the bars, almost all had live great music coming from them, & shops on Bourbon Street/general area. Found it fun for a day & I am sure there is more to NOLA than that but one day there was enough for us. Very short ride to the pier - could have walked if not for the luggage. Cabs pre-priced (forget exactly how much but twenty-something $ for 2 people and around $8 per person for 3 or more).
Embarkation: Unbelievably fast & easy. Arrived at the pier shortly after 11:00 a.m. Both my husband & I are Carnival Platinum cruisers (10+ cruises); my sister, who also came with us, is not but they let her stay with us throughout check-in. No lines for security for any guests, then on to a private room for those with VIP boarding passes (Platinum & Suite guests). After a minimal wait, we were checked in, escorted to a seating area & by 11:30 a.m. we were on the ship & finding our way around. Rooms were not ready this early & doors to the cabin areas were closed but I only carried on a tote bag containing my purse & a few items so no problem there.
Cabin: We had booked a 1A guarantee with hopes of being upgraded to an inside room with 2 lower beds. Really didn't care if we were on lowest desk. This was just a little get-a-way for us. The Carnival PVP had stated we would probably be upgraded, especially since we were frequent Carnival travelers. Documents arrived and we were assigned the 1A (upper & lower bunks). Although I do understand that is what we paid for so always a chance that's what you get, the ship was not sold out so very surprised not even a minimal upgrade. What's the purpose of booking a guarantee if there are open rooms (that are interior, we certainly weren't expecting OV) but they aren't upgrading people? Prior to sailing, we paid to upgrade ourselves to a 4A and I believe we were charged a higher rate than if we had done so at the time of booking our original discounted rate. Live & learn. My sister did keep the 1A since she was traveling solo and it actually was a nice somewhat roomy cabin, located in a nice quiet corridor between the corridors on the port and starboard sides. The 4A was fine, though the bathroom was smaller on this older ship than on we have found on the newer ones we usually sail on. Our cabin steward, Sunshine, was so sweet and so efficient…beyond belief. Best we've ever had.
Ship: For an older ship it is kept in wonderful condition. I believe it did have a refurbishment, but not the total one with the water play area yet. Always appeared clean. Since it was a smaller ship, we found limited to no lines for various places. It felt similar to some of the larger ships in terms of lounges and space since there were the same general areas, just smaller in size to be proportionate to ship's size.
Food: One area where I felt a bit disappointed. I am not a very picky eater, but the beef dishes were the worst quality beef I have ever had. Extremely tough. Other dining room food good and our waiters were terrific. Also found the food, except for dinner, was generally lukewarm. Although this is a common complaint for the buffet, at breakfast everyone at our table found their food to be cold. At the Lido grill area, the cook would do about 12 plates with burgers, then pass them out one by one as guests on line requested them. In the past, they always kept the burgers on the side of the grill, keeping them warm until each person stated if they wanted grilled chicken, cheeseburger, etc. This time if you wanted a cheeseburger, a cold slice of cheese was place on the burger sitting on the plate & that was it. I certainly didn't go hungry this week but, as said, was disappointed generally in the food. That's a first for a Carnival cruise.
Entertainment: I thought the cruise director, Butch, was very good. The highlight show, "Ticket to Ride," was a Beatles tribute and excellent.. There was a passenger talent show, some with more talent than others, but I always give credit for people just getting up. One was an elderly gentleman who basically shook his butt around on stage, but you couldn't help but smile. The other Carnival show wasn't as glitzy as shows on the newer ships, as I'm guessing space for costumes and sets is limited. The comedian & entertainers who were not Carnival singers & dancers were not so great.
Disembarking: Extremely well organized and quick. We didn't take advantage of the Platinum early disembarkation since we had a later flight, but even waiting for our assigned number to be called was easy and painless.
All in all it was a fun cruise. This was our first time sailing from NOLA, usually out of NY or Florida. Crowd on this sailing generally middle aged to senior aged. At dinner we were seated next to 2 large tables of women aged 70+. I thought it was nice to see these ladies living it up! It was also a treat to meet so many people from the mid-section of the US, since cruises we generally take have a large eastern seaboard population. Now we're looking forward to our sailing on the Freedom for New Year's Eve!